I just had one of those ‘hidden treasures you never knew you had’ moments where you squeal with utter delight.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the discovery of an ancient Ming vase worth millions sitting right next to the old Tupperware containers, but its COOLNESS factor still rates pretty high.
A few years ago a friend and I unearthed an 80’s skirt and top combo in her mother’s garage that I fell in love with and my friend convinced me to take home.
Fast forward to today, while I was trawling eBay (as you do) for vintage attire I came across these wildly patterned, colourful 80’s dresses by Susan Freis (one half of the Freis label) that I adored.
After more online research – and much unsuccessful bidding – I came to realise the Freis collection is actually pretty popular in the vintage clothes circuit with many of the label’s dresses from the 80’s are selling for several hundreds of dollars.
And of course all my online research made me remember that garage find from years ago.
You can imagine my delight, when I pulled out that 80’s skirt and top combo from my wardrobe to discover it was designed by Diane Freis (the other half and primary designer of the Freis label).
My post photo is me wearing said Diane Freis outfit, I just love all that pattern and colour!
These vintage dresses from the 80’s, still being coveted some thirty plus years later signify design brilliance and to me pure design inspiration.
Diane and Susan Freis have rightly been elevated to my collection of design icons.
So here is all you need to know about this sisterly design duo:
- A Los Angeles native, Diane’s eye for colour and design was enhanced by her fine arts education at the University of California.
- To make money as a student, she created and sold elaborately beaded jackets to Hollywood boutiques where they become popular with celebrities such as John Lennon and Diana Ross.
- Upon a search for new, exotic materials and skilled embroiderers she discovered Hong Kong where she found the fabrics and workmanship that contributed to her distinctive fashion identity.
- Moving to Hong Kong, Diane became an international name and a role model for Hong Kong manufacturing.
- The prints Diane used were usually exotic and eye-catching including florals, dramatic geometrics, stripes and plaids with embroidery and beading particular features.
- While Diane preferred to design for a market niche rather than following international fashion trends, her look captured the Boho chic style of the late 1970s and 1980’s.
- The Freis’ fashion philosophy is undoubtedly pragmatic with the focus on ‘making a one-size dress that allows the freedom of fit in our daily schedules of health programmes one day and over-indulgence the next.’
- This is why Diane’s designs became particularly popular amongst the jet set crowd – not only did they take you from day to night, the dresses in flowing polyester georgette were easy to pack and didn’t wrinkle. (HELLO!).
- Each design was produced in limited editions: with no more than 10 of any one design distributed around the world.
- In 1982, to regain exclusivity of design the company set up its own print design studio and manufacturing base in Hong Kong.
- The demand for her dresses became an international fashion phenomena of the ’80’s and the label was widely stocked in high-end specialty stores such as Harrods in the UK, Neiman Marcus in the US and David Jones in Australia.
- From a family of four sisters, Diane and Susan teamed up as a design force when demand for the Diane Freis label grew and Diane brought on board older sister Susan as an additional designer.
- You will see Susan’s name on a line called ‘Assorti’ which is under the Freis’ sister’s design collection.
- Even with an artistic bent as a painter and creative director of her and her former husband’s advertising agency, Susan never really considered fashion as one of her priorities.
- Susan describes Diane as a wild gypsy: ‘She loves lots and lots of bright colour – colour on top of colour. Even as a child she was a Gypsy. She’d put petticoats under petticoats.’ Sounds like my kind of gal!
So, shall we get our Freis on?